Altarrin has a problem.
This is hardly a new state of affairs. At any given time, he tends to be juggling several hundred problems, a dozen of them important or time-sensitive. Operating in the Eastern Empire is a relentless game of triage, of deciding which fires to leave burning because he can't afford to spend the entirety of this lifetime and his decades of accumulated political capital just on putting out fires.
He leaves Jacona, the capital, much less often than he used to. He has the Emperor's ear, and he knows the officials and the mages and the nobles and the military commanders on the ground in the various outlying provinces, how far he can trust them with what. But he's already tried managing the situation down south in Taymyrr from a distance, and matters are not improving.
He delegates all of his essential work, and makes plans to travel south by Gate-network.
He's not intending to head to the current front; he's there for diplomatic meetings in Stormhaven, the former capital city of Taymyrr, now garrisoned by the Empire's troops and in the process of being converted to a provincial administrative center. It's a nice enough city, minimally damaged in the fighting; the palace is beautiful. It's on the main trade road that runs north to Widow's Pass and also south to Oris, though only the southern stretch of the road is paved. Mages are working on the northern arm of it now.
He meets with the King (compulsioned up to his ears, to the point that he's scarcely able to think his own thoughts, and mostly resigned) and the local ruling Council of noble lords. The mood is...guarded, but it was a relatively bloodless invasion – they took some care to capture rather than kill nobleborn sons in military positions, relatively few of them have lost children or grandchildren to the war – and the promise of keeping their property and a measure of their former political power seems to be mostly enough to keep them cautiously cooperative.
Taymyrr did not previously have a state religion, and none of the militant temple orders were very popular there. There were several peaceful monastic orders dedicated to minor nature-type gods, and a set of schools run by the temple of Ashuel. The largest and fanciest temple in the city belonged to Anathei of the Purifying Flame, but it was razed to the ground on the day they took the city, and the priests who weren't killed have almost certainly fled. A small traveling- merchant-class ethnic group worships the Sky-Father and Earth-Mother; this is awkward because stamping out the faith of small groups that were already somewhat oppressed before their country was conquered is much, much harder than moving in and converting temples to secular schools and libraries.
After a few days of meetings and gathering spy-reports, though, Altarrin is fairly sure they aren't the source of the local resistance; they are very sensibly trying to stay out of the way, but there's a lot of prejudice against them and he isn't really worried that other locals are sheltering them.
The Holy Empire of Ithik worships Atet, sometimes referred to as the God of the Hidden Gardens – their teaching is that all who truly love Atet in their hearts and serve His will according to their place will be granted a place in His Garden, appropriate to their service and their position. (There's a bizarrely detailed listing of Garden privileges in their holy book; a noble lord will be given a mountain, noble second sons will be granted a herd of three hundred cattle, et cetera). Their religion – or maybe mostly Ithik's culture, there are other temples to Atet in other countries with different practices – is obnoxiously hierarchical and patriarchal; Gifts are supposed to be highly valued in His eyes, unless the Gifted person is a woman, in which case her position is restricted to bearing Gifted children. For some reason, women with the Gift of Foresight specifically are condemned as "bringers of bad luck" and, depending on the time period and how conservative the current high priest is leaning, either pushed into a life of solitary contemplation and prayer, blinded or otherwise crippled, or executed by various horrible methods.
It's considered cowardice, and shameful in the eyes of Atet, to be captured alive by the enemies of their god. There was a small monastic order on the outskirts of the city – marketed to the younger sons of farmers with no land to inherit, to offer them a life according to their place that will please Atet and earn them as much reward in His Garden as a farmer's son can expect – and when the Empire's forces moved in, the priest barred the doors and burned it down with the monks trapped inside.
Altarrin doesn't approve of most religious practices, but he dislikes Ithik in particular, and he is pretty sure they're up to something. Twice in the course of a five-day investigation, likely devotees in hiding are captured, and both of them take fast-acting poison and die before they can be questioned. There have also been a few assassinations of bureaucratic functionaries who are being especially cooperative with the occupying force, which needless to say is not incentivizing the remainder to be easy to work with.
On the sixth day, when Altarrin is meeting with the most cooperative lords on the Council to negotiate positions in the new provincial administration, a mage-gifted devotee manages to tunnel into the cellar under the building, and calls a Final Strike, killing all but two of the lords instantly and collapsing a burning building on the survivors.